Jul 25, 2007

More on Theory and How Things Work

A problem that faces any nation (indeed, any group) is the issue of free riders – people who enjoy the benefits of a group but do not pay a full share of the costs of providing the same benefits. This really only refers to people who choose to be free riders, not people that are, for example, too poor to pay taxes because of a disability. Instead, a free rider would be someone who exploited loopholes in the law to avoid paying taxes at the same level as their peers.

Most states deal with free riders by using state power to coerce participation, usually via mandatory taxes, military draft, compulsory jury duty, etc. In Edan, this situation is a bit more direct since all adult citizens make a personal Oath of Fealty to at least the King and many will also make an Oath of Fealty to their direct noble. This Oath is an acknowledgement that the citizen owes duty to the King and Kingdom as much as the King and Kingdom owes duty to the citizen. This direct and explicit social contract makes free riders more or a social problem in Edan.

On the other hand, one of the goals of the Kingdom is to limit both centralized power as much as possible and to reduce the direct interference of government into the lives of citizens. We end up with the following dilemma:

1) The Kingdom has a duty to its citizens

2) Citizens have a duty to the Kingdom

3) Any services provided for citizens by the Kingdom that do not have compulsory support will result in some citizens being free riders

4) Thus, any services provided by the Kingdom that are not compulsory will, eventually, collapse

5) The Kingdom is designed to avoid compulsion

The answer is two-fold. First, the Kingdom as a whole (i.e., the Royal government) must restrict the services it provides to only those which only the Royal government can provide or are of such a nature that participation = support.

An example of the first sort of service (something only the Royal government can provide) is the Royal Bank. This central bank will operate as the central bank of any modern nation; setting monetary policy. An example of the second sort of service is the Royal Post; unless you buy postage and submit a letter, you do not participate in the service; buying the stamp supports the service.

But what of other services? For example; in any territory the laying of sewers or the creation of a power grid requires access to multiple jurisdictions (in this case, the territories of every landed Noble as well as access to the freeholds of every citizen). The legal difficulties for any entity other than the Crown are large and the entry costs for any competitors very harsh. This tends to indicate that monopoly conditions would exist is a laissez-faire marketplace, a result that is unacceptable in private hands. Therefore, certain utilities will be limited Royal monopolies. This means that these functions will be built and maintained by the King and the Nobles for the benefit of citizens as a function of government. Primarily, these Royal monopolies will be public roads, electricity, water treatment and mass public water, sewage, and large-scale natural gas.

More on this will be discussed in a later piece.

But other actions that many in the modern world see as ‘government services’ but were known until quite recently as ‘charity’ will not be a function of government. This ranges from cash assistance to the poor to education funded by Royal tax monies. You see, in addition to the free rider problem, these programs have historically ended up being excuses for the growth of governmental power at the expense of freedom. One good example is the German parents either in prison or facing it for teaching their own children, an action supported by the courts of the European Union. The principles of Distributism must guide Edanians to push such works as locally as possible; people educating their own children or forming their own local schools; local charities formed by local people and local churches; aid coming from communities, not into it.

This will lead to the next series of pieces about: Distributism as an economic, social, and political ideology; Feudal technocracy and how it might work in the modern world; how to keep the best of competition while avoiding the worst of laissez-faire Capitalism; the pitfalls of Royal monopolies.

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